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Keeping Oak Parkers safe from gun violence and violent crime is an absolute priority.
This is an equity issue: gun violence and violent crime disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Ensuring Oak Park is safe requires taking a holistic and regional approach.
PUT THE MOST EFFECTIVE PEOPLE ON EACH JOB
We must hire and empower alternative responders to respond to incidents where a police officer is not needed. This allows police to focus on their core law enforcement priorities.
SUPPLY AMPLE RESOURCES
We must ensure our public safety professionals have the resources they need to do their jobs.
ADDRESS THE ROOT CAUSES OF VIOLENT CRIME
We must work with non-profit and government partners on a regional basis to address the root causes of violent crime in Oak Park.
SAVE LIVES NOW.
Gun violence is the number one cause of death of children in America. We must act to promote safe storage and gun locks, normalize conversations around gun safety, and get illegal guns off the streets to keep our community safe.
We have to acknowledge that Oak Park is less than five square miles and gun violence is a regional and national issue. There is no Oak Park-only solution. As a result, the only way to have a material impact on gun violence in Oak Park is with a regional approach.
The root causes of gun violence, other violent crime, and theft are poverty and its associated issues: joblessness, food insecurity, and housing insecurity. If our goal is to prevent crime—rather than simply to improve our response after the fact—we must work on a regional basis with our neighbors to address the root causes of crime. Oak Park should replicate the regional model we are pioneering with the Cross-Community Climate Collaborative to address root causes of crime, reducing the availability of guns, and establishing gun violence as a public health issue.
A CREATIVE APPROACH
Oak Park must take a creative approach to ensuring that our public safety function is appropriately staffed to meet the challenges ahead. Presently, there is a nationwide hiring shortage for well-qualified law enforcement officers. The only proposals that have been effective in increasing hiring rely on either significant signing bonuses or hiring less qualified applicants. Either approach could damage the Oak Park Police Department’s reputation in the community.
Instead, we need to take a creative approach to staffing that allows for alternative responses to certain calls for service. When your garage door is open and your bike is missing, you need an insurance adjuster with a clipboard and a pen, not a sworn officer with a badge and a gun. And a call regarding an unhoused person in the park calls for a social worker, not a law enforcement officer.
By making sure that calls for service that can best be managed by non-police personnel are referred to alternative response programs, we can reduce the burden on our police while improving outcomes for residents. This will ensure that our law enforcement officers have the staff-time necessary to perform their core law enforcement functions. Village Manager Kevin Jackson is leading a task force developing alternative response models—this is the appropriate path forward for dealing with staffing shortfalls.
SAFETY FOR ALL
And anytime we discuss policing, we have to acknowledge that while the Oak Park Police Department is one of the best in the state, policing has a problematic history and the impact of increased policing has a disproportionate impact on Black individuals--both nationally and in Oak Park. We can continue working to improve the Oak Park Police Department--and as a result trust in the department--by:
Implementing a plan for ongoing police outreach to marginalized communities.
Working with the community and OPPD leadership to live into OPPD’s stated goal of a police force with an “unwavering commitment to . . . diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Continuing to require monthly briefings on the racial make-up of police stops in Oak Park and annual briefings by OPPD leadership on outreach efforts and any training and policy updates.
Implementing a version of the ACLU's Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) model ordinance to ensure community input on any new police surveillance technologies.
Finally, it is vital that we begin treating gun violence as the public health issue that it is. I will fully support the Oak Park Public Health Department’s recently adopted strategic plan (also known as “IPLAN”) to address this issue. In addition to a response oriented towards gun crime, we must recognize that gun violence is an exceedingly complex issue and we have to use a multi-disciplinary approach to solving it in Oak Park.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in America and unsecured firearms are a significant factor in gun deaths among children. Oak Park should implement a robust program across government partners--led by the Oak Park Public Health Department--focused on educating parents about the importance of securing firearms and offering free, no-questions asked gun safety locks.
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